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The Informed Parent

You Have To Laugh

by Louis P. Theriot, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on May. 01, 1997

We all have our personal challenges to help us make it through the day...however small or insignificant they may seem. As a pediatrician, one of my goals is to be able to examine the eardrums of an infant or toddler without having them cry...or more likely scream bloody murder. Hardly a big deal to some, but not an unformidable task. When one approaches a strong-willed two year old with a shiny otoscope, it evokes panic and fear. Understandably so.

Over the years, I have striven to perfect the ear exam into an artful practice. With the unsuspecting, but wary, toddler in mom's lap, I ask the child who he thinks I "just might find" in his ears. "Could it be Tigger, or Eyore...or maybe Pooh himself?" During that momentary pause when the child is trying to process what is going on (and while in the confines of mom's lap), I look in the ears and exclaim, "Oh no! It's Batman or Buzz Lightyear!" Before the child even realizes that he has been duped, the exam is completed.

This has proved to work well over the years. There is nothing more rewarding than to have a terrified two year old ask you to look in his ears again. It is also received quite well by the parents. I have to chuckle when the mom and sibling try to guess who might be found in the ears today.

Thanks to Hollywood and Disney, there is a wealth of prospective "ear finds." From the classics such as Cinderella and Snow White, to the more contemporary Ninja Turtles and Superheroes, one is never at a loss to come up with an age appropriate "ear find" that will make a child a bit less fearful of the exam.

I would like to share a story that was told to me by a couple of moms who appreciate the ear exam game. I cannot lay claim to its authorship, but it is a cute story.

The old time pediatrician is examining a little three-and-a-half year old girl who is somewhat cautious about the exam. To break the ice, he says, "Well Brittany, let's have a look and see who is in your ears...Oh my gosh, it's Barney!" Unimpressed, the little girl calmly states, "No, he isn't. He can't be." The perplexed pediatrician tries again and states adamantly, "Why, sure he is. And Baby Bop is in the other ear." To this the girl reaffirms her position that in no way could it be Barney. Somewhat exacerbated the doctor puts down his otoscope and scratches his head. Realizing defeat, he asks her why not. In a mature and matter of fact voice the girl says, "It just couldn't be Barney because today I am wearing Barney on my underpants."

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